There are many reasons to join a network as an insurance agent. Are you an independent insurance agent looking for ways to grow your business? Or are you a captive agent thinking about going out on her own but not quite sure you want to be totally alone? Joining an insurance cluster (aka network, aggregator, or alliance) allows you to have your cake and eat it, too.
Presumably, you are an independent agent (or thinking about becoming one) because you enjoy your independence. You are your own boss, you make your own hours, you choose your own employees – you get to decide everything about your business. This is both a blessing and a curse; all that independence can start to feel a little overwhelming. You don’t want to sacrifice your independence, and you don’t want to merge with anyone else, but you could use a helping hand. An insurance cluster is exactly what you are looking for. Here’s why:
- First and foremost, membership in an insurance cluster allows you to remain entirely independent. You can still take alternate Fridays off, or redesign your letterhead, or only accept clients whose names start with Z. Your agency remains entirely within your control.
- On the other hand, if you have been contemplating a merger with another firm but are worried about the prospect of giving up autonomy, joining a cluster is a way to test the waters. Without the contractual commitment of a merger, you will still gain a sense of what it would be like to share your business with other agents. After some time in a network, you will be able to make a more informed decision about a full-fledged merger.
- Joining the right insurance cluster can give you access to carriers that you simply can’t get to as a solo agent. You and the other network members work as a team to get access to more and better carriers. The big insurers can afford to ignore you when it’s just you, but when you work with a team of other independent agents, you are in a much better negotiating position. This increased access allows you to provide a higher level of service to your clients, giving you and them a wider array of options.
- An alliance can also put you in a position to negotiate more lucrative commission contracts. Again, it’s not just you against the big guys, it’s you as part of a united team. Established carriers would rather work with a higher volume network than a small solo agent, so you can expect higher commission rates.
- As a small business owner, you know there is more to your job than working directly with clients or cashing paychecks. There can be an extraordinary amount of behind-the-scenes work to keep your business going. Sales and marketing can consume a great deal of time and energy, not to mention day-to-day operational activities. Many clusters will work with you to help with all of this, whether it’s marketing consultations or payroll support or data entry. With back office support taken care of, you can focus on client cultivation and satisfaction.
- But one of the biggest yet least tangible benefits is inclusion in a motivated community of like-minded agents. In a network, you have, in a sense, business partners; although you all remain independent, you work together for the good of all of you. As allies, you are free to craft the kind of business partnership that works best for you. Every network is not the same, and you will want to shop around to find the exact right fit. Maybe you want to share physical office space, or not. Maybe you want to meet weekly in person, or maybe you only want to meet quarterly, over video. You can find the exact right cluster for you and your business.
Some agents may tell you that networks are a bad idea – and some of them are. A network with incompetent leadership or apathetic members isn’t going to flourish, nor is one with hefty fees or a high turnover of agents. But if you do your homework, if you thoroughly research potential clusters, you should be able to spot these duds a mile away. Read the fine print of the contract, interview other existing members, and sit in on a meeting or two. Joining an insurance cluster is a big commitment, and a reputable, effective network will provide transparency so that you can make an informed decision.
At ASNOA, we are insurance professionals dedicated to helping other insurance professionals realize their full business potential. Through a variety of means, including backroom accounting, management system support and training, and general agency services support, we will help you meet your agency goals. Give us a call or send us an email today to see what we can do for you.